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Monetary policy in a low inflation economy with learning

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  • John C. Williams

Abstract

In theory, monetary policies that target the price level, as opposed to the inflation rate, should be highly effective at stabilizing the economy and avoiding deflation in the presence of the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates. With such a policy, if the short-term interest rate is constrained at zero and the inflation rate declines below its trend, the public expects that policy will eventually engineer a period of above-trend inflation that restores the price level to its target level. Expectations of future monetary accommodation stimulate output and inflation today, mitigating the effects of the zero bound. The effectiveness of such a policy strategy depends crucially on the alignment of the public’s and the central bank’s expectations of future policy actions. ; This article considers an environment where private agents have imperfect knowledge of the economy and therefore continuously reestimate the forecasting model that they use to form expectations. I find that imperfect knowledge on the part of the public, especially regarding monetary policy, can undermine the effectiveness of price-level targeting strategies that would work well if the public had complete knowledge. For low inflation targets, the zero lower bound can cause a dramatic deterioration in macroeconomic performance with severe recessions occurring with alarming frequency. However, effective communication of the policy strategy that reduces the public’s confusion about the future course of monetary policy significantly reduces the stabilization costs associated with the zero bound. Finally, the combination of learning and the zero bound implies the need for a stronger policy response to movements in the price level than would otherwise be optimal. Such a policy is effective at stabilizing both inflation and output in the presence of learning and the zero bound even with a low inflation target.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its journal Economic Review.

Volume (Year): (2010)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 1-12

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfer:y:2010:p:1-12

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Keywords: Monetary policy ; Inflation (Finance);

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References

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  1. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2002. "Imperfect knowledge, inflation expectations, and monetary policy," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-27, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Andrew Levin & Volker Wieland & John C. Williams, 1998. "Robustness of Simple Monetary Policy Rules under Model Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 6570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David L. Reifschneider & John M. Roberts, 2005. "Expectations formation and the effectiveness of strategies for limiting the consequences of the zero bound on interest rates," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-70, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2008. "Great Expectations and the End of the Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1476-1516, September.
  5. David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 1999. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low inflation era," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-44, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2002. "Robust Monetary Policy Rules with Unknown Natural Rates," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(2), pages 63-146.
  7. Bruce Preston, 2005. "Learning about Monetary Policy Rules when Long-Horizon Expectations Matter," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 1(2), September.
  8. Svensson, Lars, 2000. "The Zero Bound in an Open Economy: A Foolproof Way of Escaping from a Liquidity Trap," Seminar Papers 687, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  9. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Optimal Monetary and Fiscal Policy in a Liquidity Trap," NBER Working Papers 10840, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2005. "Monetary policy with imperfect knowledge," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-51, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  11. Reifschneider, David & Willams, John C, 2000. "Three Lessons for Monetary Policy in a Low-Inflation Era," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 936-66, November.
  12. Ann-Charlotte Eliasson & Peter Isard & Douglas Laxton, 1999. "Simple Monetary Policy Rules Under Model Uncertainty," IMF Working Papers 99/75, International Monetary Fund.
  13. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2003. "The Zero Bound on Interest Rates and Optimal Monetary Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 139-235.
  14. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2003. "Escaping from a Liquidity Trap and Deflation: The Foolproof Way and Others," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 145-166, Fall.
  15. Norman Loayza & Raimundo Soto, 2002. "Inflation Targeting: An Overview," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Norman Loayza & Raimundo Soto & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Series Editor) (ed.), Inflation Targeting: Desing, Performance, Challenges, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 1, pages 001-022 Central Bank of Chile.
  16. Jan Filáèek, 2005. "Inflation Expectations and Monetary Policy," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 55(7-8), pages 380-394, July.
  17. Okina, Kunio & Shiratsuka, Shigenori, 2004. "Policy commitment and expectation formation: Japan's experience under zero interest rates," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 75-100, March.
  18. Meltzer, Allan-H, 2001. "Monetary Transmission at Low Inflation: Some Clues from Japan in the 1990s," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 19(S1), pages 13-34, February.
  19. Eggertsson, Gauti B., 2006. "The Deflation Bias and Committing to Being Irresponsible," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 38(2), pages 283-321, March.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Glenn D. Rudebusch & John C. Williams, 2008. "Revealing the Secrets of the Temple: The Value of Publishing Central Bank Interest Rate Projections," NBER Chapters, in: Asset Prices and Monetary Policy, pages 247-289 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hess Chung & Jean‐Philippe Laforte & David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 2012. "Have We Underestimated the Likelihood and Severity of Zero Lower Bound Events?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 44, pages 47-82, 02.
  3. John C. Williams, 2009. "Heeding Daedalus: Optimal Inflation and the Zero Lower Bound," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 1-49.

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